Point: Behavioral targeting represents a media option that promises to expand and improve upon marketers' ability to engage with the right consumers. However, currently the opportunities are somewhat limited for most advertisers, in part due to the low adoption rate of the available technology, little standardization of behavioral segments across different sites, and publishers' inability to package the inventory at scale.


By Jason Heller

Early attempts at behavioral targeting were largely unsuccessful, mainly due to the inadequacies of the technology and bad timing. The concept of targeting based on a consumer's behavior was introduced by Aptex Software and packaged as Ultramatch by Infoseek in 1998; it targeted consumers based on keywords previously searched. The results proved the concept, however the scale was limited and the industry at large was not ready for this level of sophistication.

Doubleclick and Engage were the next purveyors of behavioral targeting, but these programs were not sold or promoted extensively, nor did they perform well, and ultimately went away. The common thread here is scale. Today, the technology is solid, the market is ripe, and there is much to be gained by publishers, advertisers, and consumers surrounded by a cluttered market.

To date, the adoption is most prevalent among the leading top-tier publishers, for obvious reasons. The scale of these audiences allows for more granular targeting of behavior. However, the mid-sized sites and networks have not been so quick to implement these tools and can stand to gain from doing so. Targeting capabilities, along with a deep understanding of the marketplace can offer mid-sized publishers an increased ability to meet media buyer demand.

By nature, mid-sized sites usually have a narrower focus to begin with, and often resort to offering most buys on a run-of-site basis. Behavioral targeting would empower the mid-sized site or network to offer media buyers the ability to target with as much precision as possible, limiting wasted ad dollars for the advertiser, increasing revenue for the publisher, and providing a more relevant experience for the consumer.

There was a time that mid-sized publishers were partly responsible for the rampant delivery of uncontrolled pops and other advertising that helped desensitize consumers to online advertising in general. As more publishers realize how to share in consumers' control over their online experiences, the more attractive they become to media buyers.

"Oh behave baby!" - Austin Powers

Jason Heller is the CEO and co-founder of Mass Transit Interactive (, a media planning, buying, and management agency.


By Paul DeBraccio

Most leading publishers are open to integrating behavioral targeting  the key word is leading publishers.

Advertisers have one simple request: "Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads" - Dr. Evil

It may seem that mid-level publishers are slow to adapt behavioral targeting on their sites. But the truth is that the big vendors don't seem interested in working with our sites, since it does not represent big revenue potential for them. I have had many conversations on behalf of my partner sites and have come up empty.

Mid-level sites tend to follow the lead of the portal-sized sites primarily because advertisers tend to be reluctant to test new ideas with mid-level publishers. They claim that it is generally not worth their time. Pops started at the top and the mid-level sites followed suit. Not the other way around, as my esteemed colleague stated!

The top three seem to be the areas in which advertisers feel the most comfortable testing new technologies. In reality, advertisers should look to high quality, mid-sized targeted sites to see how you can refine targeting.

Any technology can generate health ads on a broad site or auto ads to people that have looked at a lot of auto content on a portal. The true sign of behavior-based targeting is targeting high-value, hard-to-reach individuals.

It does not take sophisticated behavioral targeting to show a buyer where to reach auto enthusiasts on MSN, but targeting really comes into its own when you allow advertisers to reach buyers interested in high performance tires for Porsches on an auto site.

I think we are getting into the chicken or the egg debate. Big advertisers do not allocate extra funding to mid-level sites to test as it is not worth their time, and mid-level sites do not welcome behavioral targeting unless there is interest from advertisers and the resulting increased revenue.

Maybe we need to roundtable this and work it through  the enemy really is other media. If we make sophisticated behavioral targeting standard for online buys, I bet we can get some more of those big budgets allocated to the evil other media!

Until then, mid-sized sites represent an effective contextually relevant level of targeting and they are ripe to lead the way. Revenue Science and Tacoda, where are you?

"It is called the LASER" - Dr. Evil

Paul DeBraccio is the CEO of Interevco, a sales and consulting company. Prior to launching Interevco in 2000, he led sales at GeoCities, Tripod/Lycos, and Uproar after 14 years in magazine publishing.

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